With 16 Grammy nominations and nine songs in the Billboard Top 20, Brian McKnight knows how to write a hit. The R&B singer/songwriter says he's come to realize, however, that there are a lot of politics behind all of those chart-topping singles.
"As a songwriter, when you write a song, you know that you love it,” McKnight tells "Oprah: Where Are They Now?" "What you don’t know before you get in this business is the number of hands that song has to pass through -- and the amount of money that has to go into making sure that by the time it gets to the general public that it will be heard enough."
According to McKnight, a hit is not determined by its number of fans. "I think that as radio listeners, we always thought that a hit was when it came on and you loved it," he says. "That very rarely happens."
Instead, McKnight says hits are the tunes that get the most airtime. "What constitutes a hit? Not that it's been heard. It's that it's been played so much that people are like, 'I am so tired of that song'" he says. "You almost have to be annoyed that you've heard it so much."
In the above video, McKnight breaks down the politics of the music and radio industries. "I write [the song]," he says. "And you have to tell me, as a label president or director of promotions, that you can sell it. I have to believe that you can and remove myself from it. Because when it fails, they're not going to say that label stinks. They're going to say Brian McKnight stinks. So I have to be prepared for that.
"Once you understand the politics, you have to remove yourself from trying to figure out if what you’ve done is a hit," McKnight says.